Bouncing back from an illness

  • Wellness
  • Wednesday, 25 Sep 2019

Sick days are the worst, so what can we do to help us recover well?

Whenever we fall ill, be it with the common cold, a viral infection or an episode of diarrhoea, the most common action we take is to see a doctor, who will diagnose and prescribe medications, together with advice on what we should do to recover.

For those who dislike seeing doctors or are just plain stubborn, they usually self-medicate or opt for traditional and complementary medicine.

Whatever we do, our body usually needs plenty of rest. However, for some people, their busy lifestyles often hinder them from recovering properly. Some people simply take a few pills before returning back to work, without even taking any leave.

But is that healthy, and how can they recuperate more effectively?

Steps to a better recovery

Take into account these six steps towards better recovery.

It is best you seek help from a doctor to help you recover from an illness rather than self-medicate. In addition, getting better is not just about consulting doctors and taking your medications on time; other aspects of recovery are also important.

Food and nutrition 

Your appetite and eating routine will be affected. However, to fight infection, the body requires more nutrients. A balanced and healthy diet is even more important when you are sick.

Eat small amounts regularly throughout the day. Carbohydrates provide energy for healing, while proteins are important for cell and tissue repair, as well as antibody production.

Opt for complex carbs like whole grains and lean proteins from fish and plant proteins. Also, do not forget fruits and vegetables to get your supply of fibre, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

Sleep and rest 

Quality sleep is important for the body’s healing processes. Melatonin, a hormone produced during sleep, helps to boost the immune system and repair DNA. A healthy person usually needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but more hours may be required when you are sick.

To sleep better, keep the bedroom dark and quiet. Take sick leave if possible to have more time to recover without dealing with stress from work. This will also prevent the illness from spreading to your colleagues.


Sufficient hydration is important for flushing out toxins from the body. Illness tends to cause the loss of bodily fluids, through fever, sweating, vomiting or diarrhoea, so these fluids need to be replenished.

Drinking more plain water is the best, but you can also get your fluids from sport drinks, fruit juice, soup or porridge. Also, limit sugary beverages. Caffeine and alcohol is strictly a no-no.

Gut health 

About 80% of the immune system lies in the gut. Researchers have shown that probiotics can help keep our gut healthy and could help strengthen the immune system.

Consume probiotic-rich foods such as kimchi, tapai, yoghurt and cultured milk drinks containing probiotics L. acidophilus and L. paracasei, which can help recover from diarrhoea and constipation.

The researches at Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (PPUKM) conducted a study in 2017 on the two probiotic strains. The research subjects had improvements in constipation symptoms and those with irritable bowel syndrome had reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokines, thus enhancing their immunity.

Positive mindset 

Your mental state can have an effect on your physical condition. Stress and anxiety may disrupt the healing process. Stay positive and keep your mind occupied with activities that make you feel better while recovering at home - reading books, watching movies or listening to music to name a few.

Social support 

We tend to withdraw ourselves from others when we are sick. But having social support from people close to you can help maintain quality of life and stimulate recovery.

Inform family or friends about your condition and how they can help you, either for running errands or other tasks around the house, especially if you live alone.

Following these tips will help you bounce back from an illness and be in the pink of health. But be reminded, there is no such thing as a miracle cure. Be patient as your body recovers at its own pace and be realistic with when you expect to return to your regular schedule.

This article is courtesy of Digestive Health Malaysia (DHM) society and Vitagen Healthy Digestion Programme (VHDP), in conjunction with their World Digestive Health Day 2019 awareness campaign. Dr Rosaida Hj Md Said is a Council Member of Digestive Health Malaysia Society and a General Physician for Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist. She is not associated with, and does not endorse any brand or product. For more information, contact 03-5632 3301.

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